Syrian President Bashar al-Assad\’s re-election proves that any solution to the country\’s conflict "begins and ends" with the embattled leader, Lebanon\’s Hezbollah chief says.
Hassan Nasrallah said Friday those who desire a political solution must negotiate with Assad. He said the resignation of the Syrian president is no longer a pre-condition for a resolution to the civil war.
Nasrallah has been a staunch ally of the Assad regime during the Syrian conflict. Hezbollah militants have been fighting alongside Syrian forces during the three-year-old civil war against rebels Assad\’s ouster.
In Washington Friday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf urged parties that have influence over the Syrian regime – including Hezbollah, Iran and Russia – to push Syria\’s government toward a diplomatic solution.
“We’ve called on parties who have influence over the regime, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, to use their influence with the Assad regime to push them toward a diplomatic solution, push them to a better place," she said. "It’s in no way a change of policy, but it’s a recognition of the reality that there are outside actors who have influence on the regime and should be using it.”
Assad won a landslide victory in the Syrian presidential election on Tuesday to secure a third seven-year term.
Syrian officials said more than 10 million people voted for Assad, giving him almost 89 percent of the vote.
The victory gives Assad a third term in office despite a raging civil war which grew out of protests against his rule.
The election was held only in government-held areas, excluding vast chunks of northern and eastern Syria that are under rebel control.
The opposition and its allies have denounced the election as a farce.
For the first time in decades, there were multiple candidates on the ballot. In previous presidential elections, Assad and before him his father, Hafez, were elected in single candidate referendums in which voters cast yes-no ballots.
The fighting escalated into a war that activists say has killed more than 160,000 people. The United Nations says 2.8 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the conflict, while 6.5 million others are displaced within Syria.